Death, Freedom, and Cold Winters

July 13th, 2009 by Christian Rudder

First of all, thanks everybody for your comments and emails over the last couple weeks! Just to know that so many people have taken the time to read our writing and question our intelligence is an honor beyond measure.

Today, we’re going to revisit the mapping program from our first post two weeks ago and discuss some new questions we’ve plotted, starting with the below plots.

For anybody who didn’t see our previous map post, Rape-Fantasies and Hygiene By State, these show the responses of OkCupid users to selected user-submitted match questions. States answering “Yes” more often than the national average are greenish; states more often saying “No” are reddish. Yellow states are near the mean yes/no proportion.

Are some human lives worth more than others?


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268,864 people have answered

This graph struck me right off because our map-making program is supposed to color the states from solid green to solid red, and there’s no true red on this map. This had Chris and I confused for a while until we realized: the true red is Washington D.C.; you can barely see the little dot there by Virginia. We’d forgotten that our Google Maps API plots D.C. as a separate data set. It’s the most ‘brotherhood of man’ place in America. Weird, huh?

I looked at this graph for a while and realized that the areas more likely to value some lives over others can be generally summarized as follows: it’s the Mountain and Pacific time zones plus the former Confederacy…

OkCupid Rules

Anyhow, let’s compare that first map with this guy:

If you knew for sure you would not get caught,
would you commit murder for any reason?


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359,761 people have answered

Despite the fact that it’s located in Minnesota, Minnesota actually seems like a nice place to live. It’s the only state to come out much more humane than average on both charts. On the other hand, North Dakotans are strange: they’re apparently more for the equality of life, but also more for killing. These men are nihilists.

Overall, the Rocky Mountain states are the most into “getting away with murder.” This shouldn’t surprise us, given the results of map #1 and the heavy shit that went down in Cliffhanger:

OkCupid Rules

Now let’s look at a map with broad implications. It’s one of the highest-quality questions in OkCupid’s database, meaning that our users have determined that it’s very important to them in finding the right match:

Rate Your Self-Confidence


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581,443 people have answered

Generally speaking, the colder it is, the more likely you are to hate yourself. It’s interesting that every U.S. President since Kennedy has come from a green-tinted state, except for Gerald Ford (Michigan), who was never actually elected anyhow. I’d love to hear any of your theories about this map.

Chris grew up in New England and points out plenty of Mainers are in fact self-confident. But most of them move to New York or die snowmobiling.

I feel like the redness of economically depressed states like Michigan and Pennsylvania is self-explanatory. But why the extreme redness of Vermont? And why is a rich and otherwise successful place like Massachusetts skewing red?

OkCupid Rules

The following was the single most asked-for map, and we’ll publish it, though there aren’t many surprises:

Is homosexuality a sin?


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346,925 people have answered

A state’s skew on this question very closely reflects how it voted in the 2008 election. With the exception of Arizona for obvious reasons, the relatively “No” states voted for Obama and the “Yes” ones voted for McCain. The maps for the many abortion questions in our database look very similar to this one, so I won’t post those, but we thought the below question map was probing enough to publish. Again, we see North Dakota’s peculiar take on life and death:

Is it logically inconsistent to support the death penalty but oppose abortion?


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115,459 people have answered

Finally, I’ll leave you guys with this map.

Which would you rather lose?


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283,859 people have answered

I put this up because the question was interesting and also implies a paradox. If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.

As always, Chris and I are interested in your comments and ideas for other maps and comparisons. We’d like to do the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc., but Google’s chart API doesn’t map regions inside those countries. The whole country would be one color. If anyone can point us to a good solution, please comment below.

167 Responses to “Death, Freedom, and Cold Winters”

  1. RWS2id says:

    I agree with Eternal_Return. While I am a liberal at heart, if you lose the right to bear arms, there is very little left to protect your right to vote. Violence is a terrible last resort, but it does get the point across. A responsibly armed population is healthy for a nation because it prevents potential oppression and many aspects of crime. A populace that is armed can essentially set the rules. In the case of our nation, we are armed and decided that majority rules. You lose the right to own weapons, and you can effectively LIMIT your ability to make your voice count. Dictators have risen out of stable majority ruled free nations before. To think it is impossible for it to happen here is naive.

  2. Neal says:

    I’d like to refer to the last map which is more paradoxical than you think…
    If the only ones to carry guns are the people who don’t vote and the only people to vote are people without the guns. Who really has the control?

  3. will81585 says:

    These blog posts are fascinating and well written. It reminds me of reading fivethirtyeight.
    You should do a post about perceptions of climate change and other environmental issues. (e.g. is climate change real/human-caused, do you litter/recycle etc.)

  4. Row says:

    I’m just rereading this, and it occurred to me that in the last chart, about the right to bear arms and the right to vote. It would seem that all of the states that have relaxed gun control chose the vote option because they already have the right to bear arms. conversely the states with strict gun ownership laws have already lost the rights for guns so those would rather not loose the right to vote as well.

  5. just says:

    Since the API doesn’t map regions, but you are apparently able to plot by city/exact location, why not do that for other countries? You might still be able to overlay it with regional maps.

  6. Dating Dallas says:

    Neal, I believe the voters have the control.
    If the gun handlers don’t vote.
    How hard is it to elect someone against the right to bear arms?
    At that point, the voters could win or the gun handlers would vote.
    What people will do when they are in fear of losing they’re foundation.
    The murder question is also as interesting.

  7. Dave says:

    For the ‘Self-Confidence’ map, I believe people who live in warmer areas of the country tend to wear clothing more suited for such weather (shorts, tank tops, swim sites), which also happen to be more revealing and therefore grater emphasis is put on keeping yourself in shape. And people who are more in shape tend to be more confident.

  8. ariannaaine says:

    I resent the comment on Minnesota!

    Wait, no I don’t. That’s totally true. Well, except for the district I live in. These crazies elected Michelle Bachmann.

  9. ben says:

    Dig the maps… I would like to see maps for Australia, Canada, European countries etc. If there is no easy solution to mapping regions within those countries because of Google’s chart API, then at least including results for those countries as a whole would give us a world-wide basis of comparison.

  10. Tuomas says:

    “I put this up because the question was interesting and also implies a paradox. If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.”

    And how you are expected to take those guns away? By shooting all who won’t give them voluntarily?

    That’s called civil war, you know. Would you start civil war just to get guns away from some people (who are not criminals already, for other reasons)? I think I wouldn’t.

    But that’s not the actual point: If you have a choice like that, you would have to believe that your vote is not sold or swapped for some personal perks to the congressman and that your opinion does matter more than two seconds after you left your vote.

    I’d say that anyone actually believing that is very naive. Look at what happens in Washington DC and prove me wrong. ;)

    And yes, it doesn’t matter who do you vote or do you vote at all, because all of the candidates are thoroghougly corrupted two secons afted being nominated as candidate, some even before that. It’s the party line, only corruption brings in the money and that’s what the parties are after.

  11. Brian R says:

    If you want to map data for other regions any GIS tool can do this fairly easily. All you’re making are chloropleth maps. It’s pretty trivial and can be done in a few minutes with the data in the right format.

    Anyway.. please keep posting these blogs I find them interesting both on an academic and personal level! The latter meaning.. they’re actually helping me, hah!

  12. Ronald says:

    What you do seem to “forget” to mention, (or even flat out ignore according to this quote from the article: “It’s the most ‘brotherhood of man’ place in America. Weird, huh?”) is that the sample you use is single (and mainly younger than 30), and that therefore some (or perhaps even all) of the replies to these question, are not representative of the population as a whole, and thus results are probably skewed….

    In other words: I think you should be more careful in “generalizing” the conclusions, or even better, with each ‘factoid’ clearly state that the OKCupid population is not the same distribution as the general population, and that these factoids only count within the context of OKCupid…

  13. Scott says:

    Allow me to reinforce thoughts about the colors used for this
    there are a lot of people with red green color blindness out there. So I have not that much idea what is going on. Could you in the future, and also for this one (because I am into nagging) use a different color axis system instead of one that just is like yellow and brown to me. Because I have to
    And now to be a tongue in cheek troll, it is DISCRIMINATORY to make these maps so that they are BIGOTED against people with red green color blindness. you guys are intolerant and a bunch of fascists!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! etc.

  14. Danski says:

    I found the data pretty interesting. Though i felt some of the reasons given for them were perhaps bias due too peoples opinions of states.

    It always poses a problem for people like me who would wish for a 3rd option on almost every question.

    The funny thing is, what i would do myself, and what i think others should be aloud too do are two different views entirely. I guess im a bit of the old ”I may not agree with what you say, but i’ll defend too the death your right too say it”

    Ie while i could not kill someone myself, I would happily let someone get away with killing someone like hitler. Murder does have its uses in very very rare cases in my opinion.

    I feel the same about the death penalty i think it should be almost entirely banned baring very rare occasions. such as above.

    As for abortion i think the death penalty and abortion arent actually logically linked, Since the death penalty is for a adult, who has made his own choices and if u like chosen the death penalty for himself by commiting mass murder without remorse or something. Where as abortion, the baby is completely innocent having never had the opertunity too live outside of its mothers womb.

    As with most things i think their are always exceptions, Because whilest i would never concider abortion a option for my own unborn children i do think in some occasions parents should have the option too abort, though i feel their should be very very strict rules about it too stop people simply abortion as a quick solution

    Oh and im English not american soo i guess my views are bound too differ due too different rules here.

    I did find the self confidence map the most interesting, Since one would assume that their are confident and self confident people where every you are from. Though i guess people from for instance hollywood may have higher self confidence levels i guess cos u might expect such of actors ;p

  15. Chauncey says:

    as someone who was born and raised in North Dakota, but now lives in Minnesota, I can say that compared to the rest of the upper mid-west, MN is very liberal. I do, however, feel the abortion/death penalty question is a loaded question. I doubt you would get the same results asking it inversely (and I know you don’t write the questions, but still…) for example, I support abortion (or, to put it less morbidly, women’s choice) i’m kind of undecided about the death penalty, but I am inclined to be against it. Is this logically inconsistent as well?

    also, how are criminals and developing fetuses the same thing?

  16. JP says:

    Well, the gun control one isn’t really a paradox. The pro-gunners wouldn’t vote so the anti-gunners create gun control laws; but since the pro-voters are unarmed, the anti-voters would just start shooting. Problem solved!

    Oh, and the self-confidence thing is self-explanatory. If you spend half of your life cooped up inside while the raging blizzards blow, unable to see the sun or socialize, I can’t imagine you’re going to be that self-confident. You ARE going to be a lot nicer to people when you finally do get out, tho, since it’s the first human contact you’ve had in a while.
    Thus, Minnesota nice.

  17. LOL says:

    and then, the people who chose the guns would shoot them…i am in favor of gun control but just sayin :P